Extra toppings: Pizza Hut tower hearing Feb. 27

An unusually open development process at the former Pizza Hut lot continues Feb. 27 with a public hearing by Ald. Proco Joe Moreno, whose opinion has weight in City Council votes to follow.

The site at 1601 W. Division will be reviewed in a 6 pm meeting at Near North Montessori School, 1434 W. Division St.

Current plans call for 110 to 119 studio- to 2-bedroom apartments, a PNC bank and storefronts in an 11-story building. The project would require zoning changes and a planned development ordinance to waive height limits and parking requirements.

In a process Moreno put in play last year, developers Rob Buono and Paul Utigard, architect Jon Heinert and attorney Rolando Acosta have discussed plans with East Village Association representatives on Aug. 15, Sept. 19, Dec, 18 and Jan. 18, all with advance public notice.

Since Pizza Hut shut its doors five years ago, EVA has been promoting development that makes the most of the site's direct access to the CTA Blue Line station and bus connections. Planning co-chair Scott Rappe summarized EVA's Polish Triangle planning goals in a Feb. 6 statement. Text of the letter follows.

Commissioner Andrew J. Mooney
Department of Housing and Economic Development
121 North LaSalle Street 10th Floor
Chicago, Illinois 60602

Re: Proposed Development 1601 West Division Street

Dear Commissioner Mooney:

Since 2007, when the above referenced property became available, the East Village Association has advocated for a development that was appropriate to its prominent location on the Polish Triangle, took advantage of its proximity to public transit and had the potential to become a local landmark.

The property was purchased in 2011 by Rob Buono and Paul Utigard, who are proposing a development that appears to meet the four criteria set forth by the East Village Association for the redevelopment of this property:

1. Significant presence: The eleven story height of the proposed building will give it a significant presence on the site, anchoring the corner and, along with the landmark Home Bank & Trust Building, will create a gateway to the thriving Division Street retail/restaurant district to the west.

2. High Density: The proposed size of the building will provide approximately 100 rental units, strengthening the demand for local retail businesses and positively impacting street activity and safety on the Polish Triangle.

3. Mixed-Use: In addition to residential units, the proposed building will add retail space along Division Street where none currently exists, and provide for office space on the second floor.

4. Pedestrian & Public Transit Friendly: The proposed building will provide limited on-site parking thereby encouraging the use of the adjacent public transit, and increasing pedestrian safety by limiting automobile traffic on and off the site. Indoor resident bicycle storage and a number of affordable units will attract renters without automobiles.

Messrs. Buono and Utigard have met with the East Village Association on numerous occasions as they have developed their proposal. We have found them to be open, receptive to our suggestions and responsive to our concerns. Together, we have discussed a variety of issues, and ways to address them, and we look forward to seeing their resolution in the final PD proposal. These include:

- median to control left turns from westbound Division Street traffic - potential traffic control measures on Marshfield - disclosure that resident parking on Marshfield will be prohibited - proposed use of west building elevation for advertising - availability of car-sharing facilities - specific undesirable uses for retail storefronts

We are encouraged by what we have seen so far and ask that you support the application, with the caveat that the East Village Association be kept apprised of the process and retain an active role as the specifics of the PD are negotiated.

Thank you,

Scott A. Rappe, AIA
Planning, Preservation & Development Committee

Cc: Alderman Proco ‘Joe’ Moreno
Raymond Valadez,
Rob Buono


  1. I am a resident of the 1st ward. How do I go about stating my oposition to these plans? Parking is already difficult and traffic is getting worse and worse. A building of this size will greatly impact the neighborhood. With this addition, you would be adding approximately 150-200 residents and their cars. Part of the charm of our neighborhood is the 3 flats. 150+ residents is more than what is on a typical city block in our Wicker Park/East Village. Plus, many of us plan to rent our units out as we cannot sell them in this economy. This will kill our ability to do so. We pay the property taxes in this neighborhood- not these new residents who will be renting and congesting our neighborhood. We will be the ones voting in the ward for years to come because we are here to stay. It is in the alderman's best interest to listen to our vote.

    1. Concerned,
      The development specifically targets renters who do not own automobiles. The adjacent permit parking areas will not be available to residents of the building and the developer has agreed to require tenants to sign a disclosure to this effect at the time of rental. The alderman has also agreed not to extend this priveledge to residents of the building.

      Will this prevent a tenant from owning a car? No. But not providing access to parking raises the cost and difficulty of car ownership and will discourage it greatly.

      East Village is a dense, progressive urban community, with a long history of forward thinking planning initiatives. EVA and its members fought to have trees planted on Division street, height limits to be incorporated into the zoning ordinance, restrictions on townhomes that prevent blank facades and curbcuts, and for preservation of our vintage buildings. The organization's advocacy for this building recognizes the importance of encouraging the use of public transit, and the need for residents to populate a desolute and underutilized corner of the nieghborhood.

      I encourage you to see additional residents not as congesting the neighborhood, but as bringing more life and security to the Polish Triangle, and customers to patronize the independent local businesses that we all want.

  2. Can someone explain to me why an 11 story building makes sense here? I understand the desire for a building larger than 2 stories like the original proposal, but 11 stories is way beyond anything else on that corner and really anything else in the neighborhood (except the Noble Square Co-Op which is a complete eyesore). Shouldn't this building be in the 4-8 story range which would be on the high end of anything else in the neighborhood but not a monstrosity? I realize EVA has spent a lot of time on this and has an experienced architect working on it so I assume there is logic to support the 11 stories but I just don't understand it. Can anyone enlighten me?

    1. Christopher,

      The short answer is: proximity to public transit. Greater density is warranted where public transit (fixed rail in particular) is available. The concept is commonly referred to as 'Transit Oriented Design', and is encouraged under the LEED rating system. Higher density development at major intersections and adjacent to transit is recommended in the City's own 'Plan for Chicago's Near Northwest Side' published in 2002, and the Wicker Park Bucktown Masterplan of 2008 actually calls for a ten story building on this site.

      EVA has always tempered its advocacy for a dense building with the stipulation that it be 'Significant' as well. This site is unique in many ways: it is a corner, it faces the Polish Triangle, and it forms a 'bookend' with the landmark Home Bank & Trust building to the north. I would compare it not to the Co-Op, but to the Northwest Tower at Damen/North/Milwaukee.


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